The India-Pakistan Border (Indo-Pak Border), is the International Border that separates the two neighboring nations in the Indian Subcontinent. The Indian-Pakistan Border stretches from the Line of Control (LoC), a dividing line in the north, which isolates the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir
The border between India and Pakistan crisscrosses through different kinds of landscapes, from mountainous terrains in Kashmir to the dry Thar desert and key urban areas. The border between India and Pakistan stretches across 1800 miles and has seen many conflicts, and continues to be one of the most complex, treacherous and hostile borders the world has today. It is interesting to note that the international border is clearly visible from space, by night, because it is well illuminated with 150,000 odd floodlights installed on the Indian side.
Another point of interest is that the world, at large, does not recognize the LoC. It remains one of the most disputed stretches of land, between two countries.
Integrated Check Posts
Integrated Check Posts with immigration and customs facilities are set up to allow trade and easy movement of citizens between the two nations, and are located at the following points –
Attari at Wagah
Attari at Wagah, in Punjab, India, is also, referred to as the Attari border, Wagah border or Wagah-Attari border. The Wagah-Attari border is roughly 20 miles from Amritsar, in India and about 15 miles from Lahore in Pakistan.
The Thar Express passes through the railway station at Munabao, in the Barmer district, of Rajasthan, connecting India with Pakistan. The train runs between Bhagat Ki Kothi, in Jodhpur and Karachi in Pakistan.
The other borders where people can crossover are the Hussianiwala border in Punjab, India and Ganda Singh Wala border in Pakistan.
Beating the Retreat at Wagah Border
The Beating the Retreat ceremony at the Wagah Border is perhaps the most unique ritual that is conducted, at an international border. It is held every day, at sundown, and is quite a spectacle, that draws large crowds of spectators, on either side of the border.
The atmosphere at the venue can best be described as highly entertaining clubbed with a distinct patriotic euphoria. The crowds on either side of the gates chant slogans, in support of their respective country.
Ceremony at Wagah Border from the Indian side
The Wagah border on the Indian soil is guarded by the Border Security Force (BSF). The security personnel put up a great show, before they lower the Indian flag at sundown, and shut the gates.
The BSF is an elite force, and the men and women chosen to partake in the sundown ceremony have to meet certain physical standards. The men have to have a good physique and be over six feet tall. They undergo rigorous training before they can participate in the ritualistic ceremonial show, which is a display of aggression combined with pomp and pageantry.
The occasion demands the BSF personnel to be dressed in ceremonial attire, which entails a showy headdress, with yellow and red stripes, fanned into a plume, and a cravat and cummerbund, in similar colors.
The viewer gallery
The Wagah border can be reached by road from Amritsar, by road. It is a 45-minute drive. The spectators are seated on either side of the road, leading to the border.
The atmosphere, before the ceremony begins, is electrifying – patriotic music blares over loudspeakers and doubles the patriotic fervor, among the crowds. Loud calls of ‘Hindustan Zindabad’ (Long live Hindustan or India) and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ (Hail the Indian Motherland) reach frenzied levels. And while all this happens, hawkers go about their business, selling their wares – the tricolor, mementos, and eatables. The positive enthusiasm in people is definitely palpable.
A tourist agent would be able to get visitors VIP passes, that get one better seat, with a better view. The show is quite ostentatious and unusual. The BSF personnel on the Indian side and the Pakistani Rangers on the other side, put on a well-rehearsed show, as they move in tandem, matching step for step.
They march fiercely towards each other, menacingly lifting their legs, straight, way above their shoulders. They stomp their feet, adjust their turbans, throw back their shoulders and twist their mustache, all in a show of male pride and jingoism, even as the crowds cheer them on. This well-choreographed show goes on for some time. It is spectacular to watch the men.
Bugles are sounded, just before sunset, and the flags are lowered, with full honors, folded and taken away. The gates at the border are then slammed shut. And that culminates the end of the show.
History of the ceremony
The shutting of the gates and the lowering of the national flags at the Wagah border has been happening since 1959, barring a few years. It appears that the border security personnel must rehearse their act, to ensure that they are well synchronized.
An everyday ritual has become a major tourist attraction, for people on either side of the border.
India and Pakistan were once one nation. Pakistan was born in 1947 when India and Pakistan became independent. For several years, the Wagah border was the only crossing point between the two countries. Years later, the Aman Setu (meaning the Peace Bridge) in Uri sector, in Jammu & Kashmir was constructed to facilitate crossing over. The bridge was, however, destroyed in a powerful earthquake in 2005. But a new bridge was reconstructed where the old one once stood.